Inbee Park of South Korea simply was too good, in fact, as good as gold.
The 28-year-old Park shot 5-under-par 66 to claim the gold medal in the first Women’s Olympic Golf Tournament since 1900 by five strokes over Lydia Ko of New Zealand on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.
“This could be the highlight of my career,” said Park, whose participation in the Olympics was in question because of a left thumb injury. “I’ve won (seven) major championships, but this is very special, a huge honor.
“This definitely feels unreal. I’ve dreamed of getting the gold medal and it’s a special feeling. I’ve gone through some tough times (with the injury) and this is a big relief.”
Park finished with a total of 16-under 268, the same score gold medalist Justin Rose of Great Britain recorded to win the Men’s Olympic Tournament last week.
Ko sank a seven-foot birdie putt on the final hole to shoot 69 to claim the sliver medal, while Shanshan Feng of China also finished at 69 and finished six shots back to take the bronze medal.
“I just said, ‘I hope it goes in,'” said Ko, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. “Not many putts were going in for me, but when that one went in, I think I celebrated like the gold medalist.
“This is a dream come true, to win the sliver medal. I’m so proud.”
Stacy Lewis of the United States finished with a 66 to tie for fourth with Haru Nomura of Japan, who had a 65, and Amy Yang of South Korea, who wound up at 67.
Lewis left her 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole inches short or she would have been in a playoff with Feng for the bronze medal.
“I hit that last putt exactly the way I wanted, but it just bounced a little bit,” said Lewis, who shot 63 in the second round and 76 in the third. “To bounce back and have a chance for a medal is all I could ask for.”
Brooke Henderson of Canada posted a 67 to finish eight strokes back in a tie for seventh with Charley Hull of England, who carded a 68, and Minjee Lee of Australia, who totaled 67, while Suzann Pettersen of Norway was another shot down in solo 10th after a 68.
Gerina Piller of the U.S. struggled to a 74 to tie for 11th and Lexi Thompson closed with a 66 to round out the American threesome in a tie for 19th.